SITE OF IFFLEY WATER MILL
Site of Iffley Mill,RIGHT bank at Iffley Lock
1910: Iffley Mill in Thames Valley Villages by Charles G Harper
Iffley Mill is mentioned from the 12th century.
1445: Iffley Mill bought by Lincoln College.
1782: Iffley weir with eel bucks and water wheel -
Iffley weir, eel-bucks and water wheel, 1782.
1791: Samuel Ireland -
Iffley Mill, Samuel Ireland, 1791
... a delightful range of verdant scenery, Oxford
still remaining in view, till we reach the village
of Iffley, about a mile and a half below
This enchanting spot is a combination of all that is desirable in picturesque landscape. It is situated on a beautiful eminence, commanding an extensive distance, which includes every object in ths university ; the scene is completed by the meandering course of the river beneath, on the banks of which, immediately under the eye, is a spacious mill, worked by the current of the stream, which gives a happy foreground to the rural objects above.
From such an assemblage, what a complete selection of parts for the pencil of a Hobbima or a Ruysdael ! The admirers of English landscape, will, I flatter myself, receive some gratification from the annexed sketch, which, being faithful, will convey a tolerable idea of the beauties of the scenery.
THE church of Iffley, on the summit, is a fine remain of the Saxon style of building, particularly its portal, which is richly decorated.
1837: Iffley Mill, in Memorials of Oxford by James Ingram -
The MILL. The picturesque appearance of Iffley Mill has often attracted the notice of artists ; and a portion of it is here given in a woodcut, from a beautiful drawing by Mr. Mackenzie. There has been a mill here almost from time immemorial. In the survey of 7 Ed. I. it is noticed in conjunction with a messuage and yard- land and four acres of meadow, with a free water for fishing from the village of Iffley to the mill called Boy-Mill. But there was an annual rent of 44 shillings payable to the lord of Iffley. This mill, with the appurtenances, has long been the property of Lincoln college. The sum of £400 was given in 1622, by Sir Francis Stonor and William Wickham of Abingdon, to Philip Pitts of Iffley, for his interest in a lease of this property for sixty-one years granted by the college in the time of queen Elizabeth to his father, Arthur Pitts, before mentioned.
Iffley Mill, in Memorials of oxford by James Ingram, 1837
1859: The Thames, Mr & Mrs Hall
Iffley is justly considered "one
of the finest and most beautiful examples in England of an Anglo-Norman
parochial church". It consists of a nave and chancel divided by a tower,
forming, indeed, "an interesting school of ancient architecture", affording
a series of examples of almost every age and style, and being "accepted"
as high and pure "authority" by church architects.
The date of its foundation is probably as far back as the reign of King Stephen, when it was built by the monks of Kenilworth; authentic records prove it to have been in existence at the end of the twelfth century; it has endured with very little change from that far-off period to this; and many of its elaborate and beautiful decorations, exterior as well as interior, are now as perfect as they were when they left the hands of the sculptor-artizan.
The churchyard contains an aged yew-tree — so aged that no stretch of fancy is required to believe it was planted when the first stone of the sacred structure was laid. *
* It has been generally stated that yew-trees were planted near churches to supply bow-staves for archers, at a time when archery was much practised, and enforced by law. But the custom is now believed to be much older, and to be a relic of paganism; these trees, being sacred to the dead from a very early period, and therefore especially venerated by the Druids, were adopted by the Romans and Saxons; hence "the church was brought to the tree, and not the tree to the church", for the eminent botanist, Decandolle, notes that the yews at Fountains and Crowhurst are 1200 years old, while that at Fortingale, in Scotland, is believed to be 1400 years of age.
The rectory is in admirable keeping with the church, although of a much later date: also at the adjacent weir is a venerable mill, the successor of that which flourished here so far back as the time of the first Edward.
There are consequently few places on the banks of the Thames with so many attractions for the tourist, and its value is enhanced by immediate vicinage to Oxford. The river between Oxford and Iffley is very deep, and there are dangerous eddies, where bathers have been sacrificed. It is shallower towards Nuneham; from whence it is much deeper in its course to Abingdon.
1869: Watercolour R Mingaye
Iffley Mill, R Mingaye, 1869
1870: Iffley Mill, Henry Taunt -
Iffley Mill, Henry Taunt, 1870
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT1072
1885: Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames -
[Iffley Mill] has been painted in every kind of medium, and photographed in every sort of camera, till it must be as familiar to most people as Windsor Castle itself. Rarely, indeed, is there an exhibition of the Academy, or the Dudley, or of any of the water-colour societies, without at least one bit from Iffley.
1885: Iffley Mill, The Royal River -
Iffley Mill 1885, The Royal River.
1885: Iffley Mill from above, with old boat rollers, Henry Taunt -
Iffley Mill with old boat rollers, Henry Taunt, 1885
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT5482
1886: Julia Isham Taylor -
To one familiar with English landscape painting there is as much need of describing the beauties of Iffley Mill as there is of acquainting a Dresdener with the composition of the Sistine Madonna.
1890: Iffley Mill, Francis Frith -
1891: The Stream of Pleasure, Joseph & Elizabeth Robins Pennell -
The minute you get through Iffley Lock [ going downstream ],
you see [ on the left - the RIGHT bank ] Iffley Mill.
It is only a very old white-washed, brown-roofed mill, with a few poplars, and water falling white below the weir; but the composition is the loveliest you will find between Oxford and London.
Every one knows it; it has been photographed, and drawn, and word-painted, until it is associated with the name of Oxford as is Magdalen Tower or Folly Bridge, and there is no show-place that comes so honestly by its reputation.
1896: A young man, Arthur Thomas Green, sketched Iffley Mill while on honeymoon with his wife Rosie. He left a sketch book and his great grandson has asked that the sketch be included on this site -
Iffley Mill, Arthur Thomas Green, 1896
Copyright Stephen T Green, by kind permission
Iffley Mill, glass slide, Marriott C Morris -
Iffley Mill, glass slide, Marriott C Morris
Iffley Mill, lantern slide 1883-1906, W.C.Hughes, research by Dr Wilson, courtesy of Pat Furley
Iffley Mill etching, Frederick Miller -
Iffley Mill etching, Frederick Miller
Iffley Mill, E W Haslehurst -
Iffley Mill, E W Haslehurst, 1935
1906: G.E.Mitton -
when we come in sight of Iffley itself we may well exclaim that it would
be hard to find a sweeter spot.
There are stone walls, thatched cottages and farmyards, hay and orchards, elms, alders, and silver-stemmed birches; in consequence a quiet, rural atmosphere broods over all. The cows feed down to the edge of the river, and swallows dart about overhead, while perhaps a man paddling a canoe shoots up and away again, his white flannels and the strength and grace of his movement irresistibly recalling a swan.
The mill, half stone, half wooden cased, is very ancient; the massive foundations have become like rock from their long immersion in the running water.
There is a great quiet pool behind the lock island, and here and there a glimpse may be caught of the square tower of the famous church, which is not far off, but is well hidden by trees.
1906: Iffley Mill, Mortimer Menpes -
Iffley Mill, 1906, Mortimer Menpes
1908: May 20th, Iffley Mill was destroyed by fire -
Iffley Mill Fire, 20th May, 1908
At that time, the owners, Lincoln College, had rented the mill to Joe Wilson, the village schoolmaster and lay clerk of St John's College.
He lived in the house and sub-let the working mill.
That day, Mr Wilson and the miller had closed the mill at midday and travelled by train to Abingdon Agricultural Show.
Returning just after 6pm, the two admired the ancient mill from the train.
An hour later, walking through the streets of Oxford, there was talk of "Iffley Mill on fire".
Neither man could believe it - they had seen no sign of trouble from the train.
However, they hurried back to Iffley and found the story was true.
The alarm had been raised by a man passing over the toll bridge near the mill.
But it was too late. Within minutes, flames had broken through the roof and the whole building was on fire.
The fire brigade arrived, but could do nothing except save some furniture from the house.
Mrs Wilson, who was disabled, had been rescued by those first on the scene.
In its early days, the mill passed through many hands - and one bonus was that the right to catch eels in the mill stream went automatically with the tenancy.
Thames eels were such a delicacy that the miller often managed to pay his rent from the proceeds of the catches.
The privilege continued until about 1780 when the Thames Conservancy took over responsibility for the mill stream.
Hopes that the mill might be rebuilt after the fire were dashed when it became clear that the insurance had lapsed through a misunderstanding when Mr Wilson had sub-let the premises.
Now the only reminders of the mill are two millstones, a plaque on a wall and the hundreds of pictures painted by artists over the years.
1908: Iffley Mill in ruins, Henry Taunt
Iffley Mill in ruins, Henry Taunt, 1908
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Collection; HT10729
1908: Iffley Mill Oxford. Destroyed by Fire, May 20th, 1908. Taunt & Co 2455
Iffley Mill Oxford. Destroyed by Fire, May 20th, 1908. Taunt & Co 2455
At the foot of the public footpath leading from Mill Lane to Iffley Lock lies a millstone, above which, set into the wall, is an inscription -
THE MILL STONE
FROM IFFLEY MILL
WHICH STOOD HERE MANY CENTURIES
AND WAS DESTROYED BY FIRE
MAY 20 ~ 1908
Below Iffley Lock there is sometimes considerable current and disturbance from the weir when more water than usual is running.